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Alzheimer's Foundation of America Announces 2009 College Scholarship Winner
Date:5/12/2009

Teens Nationwide Echo Call for Alzheimer's Awareness

NEW YORK, May 12 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Emily Riber, 17, always knew her grandfather for his charming sense of humor, and as she watched Alzheimer's disease rob him of the jokes he once told, she took comfort in the social workers who were there to guide him and her family. It was their ability to improve his quality of life and the invaluable resources they provided to her family that have inspired her to pursue a career in social work.

The Alzheimer's Foundation of America (AFA) recently awarded Riber of Monroe, CT, the second annual AFA Teens for Alzheimer's Awareness College Scholarship. Her poignant essay, a requirement for the competition, recounted this close and often humorous relationship with her grandfather and how his illness and compassionate nursing home care have inspired her to give back. Riber plans to attend the Silver School of Social Work at New York University in the fall.

"Having a family member with Alzheimer's disease definitely raises one's awareness of those in need," Riber said. "While in college, I hope to begin working within the Alzheimer's community to support teenagers in a similar position."

Riber is just one of a growing number of teens who are reaching out to AFA in search of resources for Alzheimer's disease that are specifically geared toward this age group. In response, AFA's teens division, AFA Teens, is thriving: visitors are increasingly viewing its Web site, www.afateens.org, to learn about the disease, connect with peers and express themselves on a bulletin board, and seek support from AFA social workers.

Teens in various parts of the country are also forming AFA Teens chapters to raise awareness of Alzheimer's disease in their communities through different types of activities. For example, a high school student in Arcadia, CA, recently led a school-wide project that involved planting forget-me-nots and holding an educational assembly, and a teenager on Staten Island, NY, next month will host a dinner to honor local caregivers.

"Through AFA Teens, these teens have come to realize they are not alone. They have found their voice and are drawing upon the support of AFA to reach teens like themselves who otherwise may not come forward," said Eric J. Hall, AFA's president and chief executive officer.

Many teens are motivated to take part in AFA Teens after helping provide care for loved ones. According to a survey by the National Alliance for Caregiving and United Hospital Fund, more than one million children nationwide care for sick or disabled parents and grandparents; Alzheimer's disease and related dementias were the most prevalent illnesses.

Evident of the countless number of teens touched by Alzheimer's disease, more than 1,500 college-bound students applied for AFA's $5,000 college scholarship this year.

AFA established the annual scholarship so that teens could use the opportunity to reflect on how they have come to terms with the illness and in doing so have grown in their understanding of the disease itself and available resources.

The first runner-up in the 2009 competition is Jessica Curran, Peterborough, NH, and the second runner-up is Courtney Henley, Westbury, NY.

Henley helps care for her father, Michael, who has young onset Alzheimer's disease, a rarer form of dementia that affects people as young as in their 30s and 40s.

"The disease has so greatly impacted my life," she noted. "I thought that it would be not only fun but fulfilling to use my experiences to raise awareness and show people that something good can come out of situations such as these."

According to Hall, "The powerful essays written by these teens as well as others brought to light the overwhelming impact Alzheimer's disease has on teenagers. Applicants shared their insight and compassion for the cause and expressed how they have grown through coping with this devastating illness."

For more information about AFA Teens, as well as to read the winning scholarship essay, visit www.afateens.org.

The Alzheimer's Foundation of America is a nonprofit organization based in New York City that focuses on providing optimal care to individuals with Alzheimer's disease and related illnesses, and their families, and unites 950 member organizations nationwide that provide hands-on programs. AFA's services include a toll-free hot line with counseling by licensed social workers, a free caregiver magazine, and National Memory Screening Day. For information, call 866-AFA-8484 or visit www.alzfdn.org.


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SOURCE Alzheimer's Foundation of America
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